Skip to comments.Man Bites Dog [Decision from Panel of Reference, Anglican]
Posted on 01/08/2007 4:40:24 PM PST by sionnsar
I don't know which is more astonishing. The fact that Rowan Williams' Panel of Reference actually decided something or what the Panel of Reference recommended. Some selections:
The Fort Worth (FWS) submission is by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese who are in theological dispute with ECUSA concerning the ordination of women to the presbyterate and the episcopate, as well a range of other doctrinal issues including that of human sexuality. The Bishop and the Diocese are committed to "the open process of reception" articulated by the Eames Commission and are concerned that the action of the General Convention of ECUSA in passing Canons which makes womens ordination mandatory makes it impossible for the Diocese at some future date to receive confirmation of the election as their bishop of a man who disapproves of the ordination of women to the presbyterate and/or episcopate.
The problem flows from the canons, passed in 1974, permitting the ordination of women to the priesthood and to the episcopate. They were originally permissive, ie, no bishop was obliged to ordain a woman. The canons were later amended in 1997 by adding the words, "No-one shall be denied access to the ordination process nor postulancy, candidacy or ordination in any parish or diocese of this church on account of his or her sex." This additional wording makes the canon mandatory.
However, there appears to be an element of ambiguity in relation to the wording of the 1997 amendment. Presiding Bishop Griswold understands that the amendment did not seek to change the then existing state of affairs by making it mandatory for a bishop actually to ordain a woman. Rather, it was simply intended to ensure that women wishing to test their vocation to ordained ministry would not be penalized by virtue of their belonging to a diocese in which the bishop does not ordain women. Accordingly Bishop Griswold believes that the Dallas Plan meets the requirements of the canon. Bishop Iker, on the other hand, is concerned that the amended canon could now be interpreted to mean, not that no one in any parish or diocese shall be denied access to the ordination process nor postulancy, candidacy or ordination on account of his or her sex but that no one shall be denied access to these things in any parish or diocese. Accordingly, Bishop Iker is concerned that under the present canons he may be subject to presentment, trial and deposition for not accepting women priests himself even if he is prepared to arrange for ordination candidates to be handled by the Diocese of Dallas.
In addition, Bishop Iker is concerned that, assuming that a majority of the Diocese of Fort Worth continues to be opposed to the ordination of women, it may not be possible for the Diocese to secure the required number of consents to the election of a bishop who is opposed to the ordination of women, and that the Diocese is therefore under threat of not being able to have a future bishop who holds the same theological position as he does.
In 1996 Bishop Iker instituted a Plan (known as the Dallas Plan) under which he reminded clergy and laity of the Diocese that Canon Law already permitted a deacon or priest to function in a diocese for up to two months without a licence from the diocesan which enabled a woman priest to function in Fort Worth Diocese. Secondly, if a parish wished to engage the services of a woman priest as their parish priest he had designated the Bishop of Dallas as the alternative ecclesiastical authority for that parish and would entrust to him all episcopal oversight of the congregation as well as such episcopal ministry as they may require. For all other purposes the Parish would remain as part of the Diocese of Fort Worth. In addition, any woman within the Diocese who wished her vocation to the priesthood to be tested would be referred to the Bishop of Dallas.
It must be recognised that the Canon Law of a Province binds all members of the Church. In ECUSA this means that bishops, clergy and laity must acknowledge that the ordination of women is a valid exercise although, as Eames states, because the Church is in a period of reception no-one who has conscientious scruples can be required to avail themselves of the ministry of a woman priest or bishop. It must also be noted, that the ECUSA House of Bishops has acknowledged that the non-acceptance of the ordination of women is a recognized theological position to be respected.
The Panel of Reference commends to all parties the Dallas Plan which appears to have worked satisfactorily for ten years, and recommends that its procedures continue; that while the Communion is in a process of reception, no diocese or parish should be compelled to accept the ministry of word or sacrament from an ordained woman; and that provision has to be made to meet the conscientious objection to ministry by women. Equally, the proper dignity of women ordained ought to be respected in the life of the Church as a whole, and provision maintained for those who feel called to follow their vocation. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop and the other Primates of the Anglican Communion should publicly commend the adequacy of the Dallas Plan.
The Panel recommends that it be made clear that it is legitimate for a diocese to ask of candidates for election as bishop that they abide by the particular policy of the diocese in relation to the ministry of women, and that theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be a ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops.
The Panel recommends that the Archbishop of Canterbury should discuss with the Presiding Bishop the possibility of the clarification of the ambiguous wording of the 1997 amendment to the relevant canon so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese. At the same time the apparent intention of the amendment to defend the interests of women candidates for postulancy, candidacy and ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women would be underscored.
Fort Worth, then, got everything it wanted. So I can't help but think that this is a stinging rebuke to TEC. Will it matter? Probably not. I can't see Katharine Jefferts Schori working all that hard at GenCon 2009 to get that 1997 amendment clarified and I don't see such a clarification passing a convention anyway regardless of any efforts Mrs. Schori makes.
The Panel's acknowledgement that belief in the non-ordination of women is a perfectly valid theological position cuts a good deal of ground out from under the liberals. Creative thinkers that they are, though, I'm sure TEC can and will find other reasons to turn down future Fort Worth bishops so this document may have no practical effect. But it does prove that Fort Worth wants to play by Anglican rules. Time will tell whether TEC does.
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